Letters to the Editor

Report card misses the mark

On July 25, The Sun News issued a report card on local legislators from Horry and Georgetown counties in an editorial called "Scoring the Legislature." Although based on the scoring system they created to rank our effectiveness, I barely passed, I would give The Sun News an "A" for "attempt" and for a thoughtful, if misleading, review.

Unfortunately, I find just about all so-called rating systems that attempt to judge the performance of elected officials about as consistent and subjective as judging ice dancing or high diving competitions. I'm always amazed when Dick Button trashes what appears to be the perfect "triple salchow."

So, for the record, I offer my rating of our local delegation without using specific grades. First, based on 35 years of observation and six years of close personal and professional working relationships, I would give the entire delegation very high marks. As evidenced by results not just ideas, I believe we now have one of the strongest and most cohesive groups in the state, and so I offer this counter-review, casting aside any personal or professional relationships.

Both Tracy Edge and Alan Clemmons deserve high marks because they are effective and hard-working. Rep. Edge heads a Ways & Means subcommittee that is among the most complex and critical. Behind its chairman and the speaker of the House, he has become among its most influential members. Rep. Clemmons is also very influential and his single-minded focus on the needs of our area, especially Interstate 73, continues to generate great success.

I believe Reps. George Hearn, Nelson Hardwick and Liston Barfield deserve much higher grades as well. Considering he is just completing his first term, voters in District 105 will be pleased to know that Hearn is highly respected and thought of and has come a very long way in a very short time. Hardwick, consistently even-keeled and well-liked, is a leader of his committee and certainly in line to be named the next chairman on a committee that drastically affects our area. And after having served in the House for a combined 16 years, Barfield has learned he is most effective working behind the scenes to build consensus and continues to be instrumental in making sure legislators understand Horry County's needs. It is also important to note his national role as a board member of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Last but not least, although Rep. Thad Viers may lack positions traditionally thought of as high-profile, he has been perhaps most consistent in fighting the uphill battle for real government reform. And his reputation as an outspoken, hard-line conservative cannot be underestimated in terms of its importance to the coast and the entire state.

Rating senators is even more difficult and complicated, as our rules are totally different (and sometimes archaic) than those in the House.

For example, while we often have "voice votes" on third (and final) reading of a bill, that is because we are required to have roll call votes on second reading, and the rules typically prevent major changes at third reading. It takes a small army of representatives to kill a bill in the House, but Senate rules permit a single senator to squash any bill with a stroke of a pen. And in the Senate, almost everything hinges on tenure (one reason I am such a proponent of term limits).

Because of Sen. Luke Rankin's tenure, he would receive top marks. He has the skills and experience to work with both sides of the aisle - critical with only 46 senators, and his work as a member of the committee that selects members of varied and various authorities.

It would be unfair for me to rate my own performance, but I feel it is equally unfair that using The Sun News' scoring system, I would be fortunate to survive my next election. By picking and choosing votes and issues you believe are important and not examining my entire record, The Sun News has issued me a failing grade - one that, were it accurate, would cause my constituents to be disappointed.

You listed me as "absent" for the third and final reading of EMS and Workforce Reform, yet I was instrumental in passing both issues, serving on both the sub and full committees. I missed two days while away on a humanitarian mission trip, the vote was secure, and my work earned me an award from EMS for the legislation.

I served on the three-member subcommittee and full committee on Voter ID/Early Voting. I worked long and hard on my own bill reforming our "Certificate of Need" in health care; on re-defining the "Good Samaritan Bill"; on placing our rail industry under the Department of Transportation (where it is in 48 other states); and on a bill that will help all single parents receive delinquent funds owed by the noncustodial parent without needing the expertise and expense of an attorney. And although I have failed so far to get any traction on my term limit or recycling bills, they are among my most passionate efforts.

My point is this: If The Sun News would broaden the scope of its scorecard rating system and take a little extra time examining the breadth and depth of a legislator's entire performance, it could have made a good editorial into a great one and do a real service to the voting public. Having done so, I truly believe every Horry County Republican legislator would have been on the awards platform.

Cleary, a Republican, represents District 34 in the S.C. Senate.